Experience is a harsh teacher, especially when it comes to mobile living. Imagine taking a small cabin, putting it on a shaker table and run it at full blast for two days. A traditional home would be destroyed. Yet your RV routinely receives that kind of punishment, plus it has to endure the elements. The sun and rain are relentless enemies of your camper. Considering what we ask of our campers, it’s a modern marvel they hold up as well as they do.
If you’re new to camping or buying a new camper, remember these tips.
Know Your Tires
Experienced RV buyers know that manufacturers and dealers put the cheapest possible tires on campers and RVs. Sometimes they’re not even tires rated for the weight of your camper! Trailer tires will have both a weight and speed rating and you should research trailer tires before shopping for a new camper. Experienced RV buyers know to make the stock tires a point of negotiation before driving off the lot.
Know Your Weights – Safe Towing
Probably the biggest risk I see people on the road taking routinely is unsafe towing. Towing a trailer that’s too heavy for their rig, improperly loaded trailers, overloaded tow vehicles…I’m frankly shocked at how many people obviously haven’t done 30 minutes research on safe towing. The biggest safety issue for travel trailers is trailer sway, which can strike with little warning and be deadly. A weight distribution hitch with integrated sway control is cheap insurance. Even then, your trailer still needs to be loaded properly.
Your tow vehicle has a rating but your trailer also has a weight rating. Look up the weight specs for your specific make and model of truck. Understand tongue weights and gross vehicle weights, which dictates how much payload you can carry in your tow vehicle. Yeah, I get it’s confusing but your life depends on getting it right.
Know Your Measurements
Learn the actual lengths and height of your truck and camper. Not only the length of your camper, but the length including the tongue and the total length of your truck, tongue and camper. Our weight distribution hitch adds over 12 inches to the overall length of our rig. Know the width of both your camper and truck.
Also know the height of your trailer from the very top of the A/C unit to the ground. If you’re not a truck driver, then you’re not used to paying attention to those signs advertising overhead clearance. Shearing off an A/C unit is a harsh, and expensive, lesson.
Plan Your Route
Places your car can fit easily can be a nightmare for a camper/trailer combination. Route planning includes roads, fuel stops, and being realistic about the distance you can cover in a day. I can easily drive 400 miles a day in a car, but hook up the truck and trailer and it falls to closer to half that.
Choose gas stations that cater to highway traffic and have plenty of room to get in and out. I’ve found that Google Maps is great for getting a street level view of gas stations and truck stops. Just because a car fits at a station doesn’t mean you can.
Leave early, give yourself plenty of time. Try to get your daily travel done during daylight hours. Speed is the second most common risk i see people take when towing. Many states a separate and slower speed limit for vehicles towing a trailer. Sometimes it only applies on numbered highways, sometimes it’s effective in all speed zones. Know the laws of the states you’re traveling through as well as your home state.
Just like the airlines, one of the big killers in RV travel is get-there-itis. Pushing a bad situation instead of waiting for a better travel window. You’re on vacation, so pad your travel schedule and let the journey be half the fun.
If in doubt, spend an extra day getting there. You’ll feel much better.